Oddbox is London’s first wonky fruit and veg box subscription service – they deliver fruit and veg boxes to homes in South London, and fruit only boxes to offices in Central London. We could not think of a better brand to discuss the 101s of food waste.
When most people think food waste, they think stinking, rotting food, which we admit *is* grim on a lot of levels but also because it completely misses the point when it comes to the realities of what’s classed as ‘waste’ and what that means for stopping it.
The truth is, most of the food we ‘waste’ is completely edible.
It looks a bit different but tastes the same and when the consequences of wasting it are this high, that’s dangerous. Luckily for you, a few start-ups including us, Oddbox, are on a mission to make tackling food waste as manageable and empowering as possible and this all starts by knowing what we’re up against.
Let’s start off with the term ‘waste’ because it’s confusing.
Waste comes in four main categories — actual, rotting rubbish, aesthetic ‘wonky’ food waste, surplus and home waste. Let us explain…
Aesthetic ‘imperfections’: A lot of the time food becomes ‘waste’ because it simply doesn’t look the right way. This can mean anything from its size and wonky shape, discolouration or slight pigmentation, sometimes even small animal bites marking its thick skin, like the rabbits nibbling at a Crown Prince Squash, which if you think about it is kind of endearing really.
That slight ‘abnormality’ in appearance could mean that it’s not suitable for its pesky plastic packaging — particularly with courgettes and cucumbers, for example — or that it just doesn’t quite fit the standards required for traditional sale.
Which in turn means a huge loss for farmers and growers and that usually, this perfectly edible food will go straight back into the ground it came from.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, some of this ‘wonky’ produce can be sent for processing to be used in ready meals, sauces or other products like tzatziki, however, this isn’t an option for everything and the grower only receives a fraction of the price for the produce.
Making all the labour, land, and resources used to grow them totally and completely pointless. Or, in an even darker reality, it gets hulked and hurled into landfill and contributes to the huge amount of methane being released into the atmosphere, something contributing to the climate changes we are witnessing, so not good news.
Then we move on to the surplus.
This tends to be the one most people forget and happens for a number of reasons. Like when unexpected weather conditions affect seasonal supplies and growers end up with a large quantity of say, pumpkins in September. Or when yearly forecasts change last minute as they get replaced with more accurate weekly then daily orders, which may well be less than the original predicted and therefore producers end up with surplus.
This again can be a result of the weather. Say, for example, it snows in March, which affects logistics or it rains a lot that week, people are less likely to want to go and buy soft fruit/limes/salad than they would when the weather is nice.
Surplus also happens when local growers are out-priced by foreign supply, which means it’s not worth farmers picking produce for the money they’ll receive for it.
As well as a seasonal glut as another result of the weather or just because there are too many local growers of one particular item (you’re likely to find more surplus around during the middle of the season) and there’s just too much around for people to consume.
This means that it will be straight up ploughed back into the ground or left on the tree or vine to rot as harvesting it becomes completely uneconomic for the grower. Or yet again tossed in the heap. It’s. Utter. Madness.
Then there’s the part that we can all recognise and change almost immediately — the waste that’s down to us.
It’s estimated that the food we waste in our own homes amounts to about £13 billion. That’s a big old number.
Being blunt, we don’t always know what we’re doing when it comes to food and that’s not entirely our fault. Food labelling has its limitations, we live in a country that places consumerism H-I-G-H on the priority list so usually, we buy more than we actually need, and we’ve been taught and sold that some parts of fruits and vegetables don’t deserve our time and energy. It’s a crazy old world we’re living in.
The good news is that the majority of the time we can tackle a huge slice of this kind of waste simply by buying better, storing our food correctly and being a bit more proactive with what we consume and composting all of the bits which are genuinely inedible.
No-one wants to eat rubbish food.
So. Now that you know, it’s hard to un-know right? Thankfully there are so many ways to combat the beast including joining us on the #wonkyvegrevolution!